The Champions League is filled with remarkable talent, the best in Europe and likely the world; Borussia Dortmund now fields a startling starting XI, as frightening as any and younger than most.
Borussia Dortmund is not supposed to be this intimidating; Bayern München, PSG, Manchester City, Liverpool and Juventus are who most fans are looking for in European Competition. European royalty, their names are synonymous with success in their respective leagues and nations.
While Dortmund has a rich and vibrant history, they are not consistently in the same discussion as those other teams. It appears as though that narrative is being worked on by Dortmund themselves, and it could very well change everything.
With the shock signature of Erling Haaland from RB Salzburg, Borussia Dortmund have announced their intent in Germany and Europe. Costing €22.5m, the investment seems a remarkably reasonable price to solidify Dortmund moving forward for years; should the club somehow go south, it is simply a wise investment for further building a sound and stable club in the future.
When we look at Borussia Dortmund, in Germany and Europe, one is left stunned at what the starting XI can look like on any given match day; a mixture of youth and experience that makes Ajax blush. Bayern and PSG should both be remarkably weary of their biggest current obstacles locally and in the UCL.
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For me, Dortmund lining up in a 4-2-3-1 makes the most amount of sense; it accentuates all of their best pieces in their best position. Young stars like Thorgan Hazard and Jadon Sanchez sit on either side Erling Haaland when on the attack, while they will hover in line with Marco Reus while not threatening.
Marco Reus is the battery which makes this clock tick; his work in the number ten position will dictate the fluidity of the offensive game Borussia Dortmund wishes to play. If he can control those three weapons from the advanced midfield position, Dortmund will be nearly unstoppable.
Jadon Sanchez himself is also an X factor; should his form return to its peak of last season, it will be difficult to stop a team flush with so much creative vision and expression. Behind these four attacking threats, we see a mixture of firepower, brawn and brains.
Julian Brandt could play in a more advanced position for nearly any other club in Europe; that he is in a more defensive position with Dortmund is a testament to both his versatility and their absolute stout attacking depth. Next to him is Axel Witsel; Belgian utility knife, and a key piece in advancing the ball forward alongside Brandt.
When in top form, their play helps to convert proper defense into offensive opportunities; the crux between offensive and defensive players is extraordinarily important in today’s football. Without them, the very talented backline could not play as bravely as they do as consistently as they do.
With Nico Schulz, Manuel Ankanji, Mats Hummels and Achraf Hakimi along the backline, Roman Bürki is sufficiently protected from harm. While the offense and defense hasn’t always been on the same page this campaign, the signing of Erling Haaland should aid both sides of the ball substantially; the old adage that, “the best offense is a good defense” can be inverted in this instance without question.
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While Dortmund trails league leaders RB Leipzig and Julian Nagelsmann by seven points, that is a relatively minimal margin for January’s standards. Bayern sit in third and with the way their season has unfolded with Niko Kovac and their inconsistent play, they are no guarantee in a wild Bundesliga campaign. A strong push by Dortmund and their substantial depth could mean a new face atop the final standings finally.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Borussia Dortmund face PSG as February begins in the UCL Round of 16. Paris is catching fire at the right time, as chemistry between Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr. is propelling them forward at a rapid pace. New signing Mauro Icardi has integrated into Thomas Tuchel’s side as well, and Angel Di Maria has turned back the clock during this season. How do two powerhouse sides matchup in a two-legged tie that neither manager can afford to lose? Two high-end managing gigs are essentially on the line as much as European silverware for this matchup.
Erling Haaland could be what gives Dortmund a real fighting chance; Haaland could be also, what gives Borussia Dortmund the victory ultimately. No European player has made as big a difference on the continent this campaign as Haaland has; 28 goals across league, domestic cup and European ties is remarkable as the new year greets us. If he cannot adjust however, PSG will not suffer as wholeheartedly as they would otherwise. The gamble is and was real; the benefits can be as real and vivid as the chance itself.
I personally believe that PSG is focused and driven by the ambition and volition of Kylian Mbappe; it will take a truly Herculean effort by all of the extraordinary youth to take down Mbappe, Neymar, Icardi and whoever else PSG recruits during this winter transfer window. If there is one team capable of it at this early stage, Dortmund is absolutely the club I would pick however; before and after the Haaland transfer, their tenacity and young spirit is invigorating and infectious.
If Borussia Dortmund believes it can slay the biggest names in Europe, it will do so. If it does not yet, then a shock upset of PSG would invigorate the club moving forward. If it cannot, its campaign is not in tatters by a long shot. The domestic titles of Germany are still in firm reach but still, the goal looms larger than simply German titles; Europe looms in the ambitions of the players and PSG is the first real test towards this supreme goal. I